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Cowboy plans to get back on bull after accident

| Sunday, Aug. 19, 2001

As an amateur bull rider, Jeff Brown has learned a lot about bulls. Chiefly, they're mean.

Bulls have bruised, bloodied and broken Brown. They've gored him and stepped on him. Brown does not take it personally. He just considers it a slight character flaw.

'They have a little bit of a mean streak,' said Brown, a 29-year-old from Charleroi. 'They'll pay you back.'

And Brown is familiar with paybacks.

He has a slim, pink scar on his left cheek where a bull named Earring once jabbed with his horn during a ride.

But it was a bull named Coffee who almost ended Brown's avocation.

In June 2000 at a rodeo called the Woodchopper's Jamboree in Encampment, Wyo.,

Brown's draw was up and Coffee was waiting.

Brown lowered himself onto the bull's back and tightened the rope around his grip hand.

He signaled, the chute door opened and Coffee immediately turned into Brown's free hand, throwing him off balance.

'I wasn't necessarily expecting him to do that,' Brown said. 'I was kind of hoping for him to make one jump before he turned. At the time, I was leaning too far forward, and when he turned, the momentum just threw me down.'

Brown's wife, Hilary, was watching from the stands.

'I knew he was in trouble the second time he swung around,' Hilary Brown said. 'He had a look of fear on his face. I knew he was stuck.'

Unable to push himself back onto Coffee or release his grip hand from the rope, Brown was thrown under the bull.

'As he was spinning, I was trying to get to my feet and that's when he stepped all over my legs,' Jeff Brown said. 'I didn't realize I was hurt until after I got my hand out of the rope. I went to stand up and I couldn't.'

An ambulance was waiting to take Brown to the nearest hospital, 45 minutes away.

There, he was told his right leg was broken and his left knee was shattered, and that he had torn ligaments and tendons in the knee.

Brown underwent surgery for his injuries during the first week in July and was mobile, with the aid of a walker, by the second week in August of last year.

His wife said he is just now getting back to his old self.

Jeff Brown had always been an avid fan of TV rodeo shows, tuning in to ESPN or TNN to view Professional Bull Riders or the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association events, and once he moved to Wyoming, the Cowboy State, with his wife in 1997, he decided to make his dream a reality.

He began riding in weekly open rodeos in 1998 when he met a group of local riders who encouraged him to get on a bull for the first time.

'When in Rome, do as the Romans,' Jeff Brown said. 'It was something I always wanted to do and when I moved to Wyoming I actually got the chance to do it, so I jumped on it and I found out I like it. From the first ride I was hooked.'

The attraction of bull riding is similar to that of most daredevil sports, he said.

'It's dangerous. You're kind of on the edge. You're trying to be in control of something you're not really in control of,' he said. 'It's a huge adrenaline rush.'

For Jeff Brown's birthday last year, family and friends pooled money and sent him to the Sankey Rodeo School in Wyoming for a three-day bull riding camp.

Brown learned the basics at camp - the proper names for bull riding gear, the rules and regulations and the moves.

Chaps, gloves, a protective vest, spurs, a long-sleeve button-down shirt and a cowboy hat and boots are regulation gear for a bull rider.

'I imagine it has a lot to do with tradition, but a lot of it's about protection,' said Jeff Brown of the standard bull rider outfit. 'Those hooves can be pretty sharp at times.'

The rules are simple: The rider attempts to stay on the bull for eight seconds keeping his free hand in the air at all times. If a rider's hand touches the equipment, the bull or himself, they are disqualified.

As for the moves, Jeff Brown said, 'It's all balance and counterbalance. I ride left handed so when the bull turns to the left it's turning into my hand and that move's called lift and pump, which your lifting on your rope a little bit and your pumping with your free arm up. Basically you're trying to keep yourself in timing and squared up to the bull's shoulders.'

Understandably, Hilary Brown is not eager for her husband to return to the arena.

'I was fine until he got hurt this last time,' Hilary Brown said. 'It's going to be hard for me to see him on another one. It's kind of weird to see your husband, a strong person, walking around with a walker, not being able to do anything for himself because he had both his legs blown out by a bull.'

Regardless, Brown said he does not intend to give up riding.

'You just have to focus on what you can do,' said Brown. 'It's eight seconds that you're trying to shoot for so it's pretty short, but there are times it feels like an eternity.'

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